Nov 20

Beautiful Fall Leaves in Gyeongsangnam-do!

While Fall and Spring are everyone’s favorite seasons, and mine, they both seem so fleeting don’t they? I waited and waited for the leaves to start changing, and once they did the cloudy days and rain came with them. We haven’t had great weather the past couple weeks, so I was waiting for a good day to go for a Fall drive and look at the leaves in the countryside. That day was yesterday! As soon as we woke up and noticed the sun shining into our bedroom, we quickly got ready and left. We didn’t want to go very far since we still had a lot to accomplish before another Monday rolled around, so we decided to explore Yangsan and Wondong. I was in Wondong in the Spring for the Plum Blossoms Festival, and figured it would be just as beautiful in the Fall. I looked up temples in the area in Dale’s book, our usual reference, and then set off with our final destination being Sinheungsa, a little known temple that ranks very high (8.5/10) on his scale for temples. I was excited to hit the road, so after grabbing a couple sandwiches at our famed Yangsan Subway, we set out for the windy mountain roads!

We made two spontaneous stops on the way to Sinheungsa. The first was a new park and lookout point on the road to Wondong from Yangsan, and it was a really nice, short walk to a brand new wooden pagoda overlooking the Nakdong River. Unsurprisingly, hikers were picnicking in the pagoda, and after admiring the view for a few minutes we followed the trail that loops around to the parking lot and hopped back in the car. After about 20 minutes of driving through the beautiful countryside, we saw some of the brightest red and yellow leaves I’ve ever seen at a rest stop and decided to get out and walk around! First we followed a concrete path that led to another view of the Nakdong and the valley below, then we joined the others who decided to stop for a few selfies on their afternoon drive.


We took a lot of pictures here, as you can see, and I could have walked amongst those trees forever! I always keep a few leaves every year and stick them in a journal to press, just to keep a little piece of my favorite season a little longer. We thought about heading back to Yangsan after this wonderful stop, but I’m so glad we didn’t! Sinheung temple did not disappoint, and it seemed like the perfect time to go. We drove up to the temple along a small creek and parked by a stone dragon bridge. As we walked through the main gate, monks and temple workers were all raking leaves into piles and hauling them onto trucks. The raking was very rhythmic and somehow peaceful, and there were very few visitors at the time so we had the temple almost all to ourselves.

We had an unplanned,simple, fantastic Fall day. I love days like this more than over planned trips that always seem to disappoint. We just enjoyed each other, the beautiful weather, and the bright colors of the countryside in Fall.

Do you like spontaneous trips like this, or more planned weekends? What is your favorite season and activity related to that season?

Nov 17

Rachel’s Tiny Kitchen #1 – RICE COOKER CHICKEN WINGS!

I have always enjoyed cooking, but boy did I take for granted my kitchen and oven in the States! Since moving to Korea I’ve had to adapt the way I cook completely. From having no counter space, to replacing ingredients with things available here, to trying to make delicious cakes in a small toaster oven, I’ve done it all! There have been a lot of failed experiments and total disasters in my tiny kitchen(stories I may have to share soon!), but along the way I’ve learned a lot about how to make your tiny kitchen as efficient as possible and still make delicious food!

I hope these videos will help people with tiny kitchen’s wherever you are, whether you’re in Asia or you’re a college student in a dorm! Your tiny kitchen is not as limiting as you might think, so I want to share simple recipes that anybody can make at home!

The first recipe I want to share is our current favorite, rice cooker chicken wings! Proper chicken wings is one of those dishes that we missed a lot in Korea, and at first it seemed like a far-fetched dish to be able to accomplish in such a small kitchen! Luckily my rice cooker has been our savior, and once we discovered you could cook ANYTHING in a rice cooker, and that whole world opened up, life and dinner has not been the same. :P If you haven’t seen our previous rice cooker videos and tutorial, I suggest you check them out! Banana bread was the first time I used the rice cooker for anything other than rice, and I still make it all the time!

Here’s the recipe that’s also in the description of the video. If you make this, please take a picture and hashtag #rachelstinykitchen or #rtk on instagram or twitter! Also send suggestions for future videos! If you aren’t following us on instagram you’re missing lots of yummy food photos - VlogofRachel and Evanandrachel.

Spicy Teriyaki Chicken Wings

-Rice Cooker
-frozen chicken wings
-2 tbsp. butter/margarine
-lemon juice
-tbsp. minced garlic
-beer of your choice, enough to cover the bottom of the pot
-sauce of your choice, a little less than half a regular bottle
-hot sauce (optional)
-herbs and spices of your choice (I used a dash of salt, pepper, and chili)

Throw it all in your rice cooker, and cook it for one cycle for delicious, juicy wings! Much cheaper than chicken in Korea and great for parties and husbands. ;)

It’s as easy as that. Very minimal effort, and a great reward. What I like about this recipe the most is that it’s so adaptable to your tastes! Sometimes I make bbq chicken wings, sometimes it’s just hot sauce, and sometimes I just use garlic and herbs! Make it to suit your tastes, can’t wait to see your photos!

Happy cooking!

Nov 07

Where to Buy English Books in Korea

Winter is coming in Korea and it’s a great time to snuggle up with a few new books. This past January I made a goal to read 35 books in 2014, and I can finally see the finish line! I’ve read 26 books so far, so that leaves 9 more to go in under 2 months. That’s a lot of reading, so I decided to order some new books to motivate me to reach my goal.

I ordered them from What the Book, the popular used book store in the Itaewon neighborhood of Seoul. Many of you have probably heard of or visited the store, but you may not know that you can also order books from their online store and have them delivered to you anywhere in Korea! Even if you’re looking for a specific book they don’t have, What the Book can order it for you online and send it to you.

So here’s my book haul! I was really excited to get them because I haven’t ordered new books in a long time, since getting my Kindle Fire. :)

1) The Walking Dead, Volume 4 & 5, by Robert Kirkman
I picked up used copies of Volumes 1-3 on a whim last time I was in the States. I’ve never really read comics or owned any, but since I enjoyed the show so much I decided to try it! I’ve loved reading them so far and am looking for recommendations of other comics or graphic novels! They can be in English, Korean, or French…so please let me know what I should pick up next.

2) Lean In for Graduates, by Sheryl Sandberg
The past couple years I’ve become a lot more aware of women’s issues, and have made a conscious effort to read more books by women authors. When this book first came out I knew I wanted to read it, but I was waiting to order a physical copy because some books you just want to hold. I got the newest edition for Graduates, because it contains the original edition as well as some additional essays! Excited to read this one.
lean-in-book-cover

3) The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman
I ordered these books before Halloween, so I was in a horror/fantasy mood, and had this book recommended to me by several friends. I’ve been following him on Tumblr and I know him mostly through Amanda Palmer, one of my idols. Currently I’m reading Dracula by Bram Stoker, and I’ll read this one next. Who says Halloween has to end?
TheGraveyardBook_Hardcover

So if you’re new to Korea and you’re wondering how and where to get English books, I’ve made a video and compiled a list of some websites and bookstores that sell them!

Where to Buy English books in Korea!

Places mentioned in the video:
Seoul-
http://whatthebook.com/

Seoul Metropolitan Public Library

Daegu-
Buy the Book Cafe – Used books, vegan/vegetarian food

Busan-
English Library
Book Swap Group on Facebook

Kyobo – 24 Locations throughout Korea

Also if you want to see what I’m reading, add me as a friend on Goodreads!

Have you read any good books this year? Let me know what you’re reading and if you have any recommendations! :)

Nov 05

Our 4th Chuseok in Korea, Part 2 – Busan & Yangsan

This is the 2nd part of our Aunt Kathy’s trip to Korea! You can read about the first part of the trip in Seoul here. Now on to Busan! I was really excited about the train ride from Seoul to Yangsan, because after years I’m still not tired of Korea’s beautiful mountains and countryside. It ended up not being as clear as it could have been but it was still a nice ride! As Seoul faded from our minds, we started focusing on the next couple days in Busan.

First we stopped at our apartment in Yangsan to pick up our car before heading to Busan to check into our hotel. After a quick glass of wine with Aunt Kathy, we made our way to Busan and checked into the Haeundae Grand Hotel. We arrived pretty late and after a small mixup with our check – in, we admired the gorgeous lobby, the grand piano playing classical music, and the calm atmosphere. Then we made our way up to check out our ocean front room. The first thing I loved, CARPET! It’s a rare thing in Korea, and it was nice to feel under my feet. And aside from another comfy bed, the highlight of this room was our spectacular view! The hotel sits on the far end of Haeundae beach, a part we’d never been before. The beach in front of us was quiet and peaceful, I loved looking out of the huge window and seeing that day or night!


At this point we were starving, since we only had some snacks on the train and hadn’t eaten a proper dinner yet. We drove over to the beach and dove into a hole in the wall chicken place. I thought the whole “chicken and beer” culture would be a fun thing to show Aunt Kathy, because it was pretty late at night and family run hole in the wall places are the best! They were really busy, and we were crammed between a couple loud parties of young guys on their 6th or 10th bottle of soju! (who’s counting) After stuffing ourselves, we walked over to the beach and just sat in the cool sand, listened to the waves, and savored the moment together. It had been a long time since Aunt Kathy had been to a beach, and we talked about how healing being by the ocean can be.

The next day we slept in and then made our way to the Busan Aquarium! We had never been before, so it was a first for us as well. We had been to the COEX aquarium in Seoul, and it was awful, so until this trip we had kept our distance from Korean aquariums and zoos. But I was wrong! Although some of the things about the aquarium were kitschy and cutesy, I think the quality of this aquarium far surpasses any other aquarium in Korea. While we were there we got to see the penguin feeding, shark feeding, and we paid a little extra to do the “tour boat”. The tour boat was basically a tiny glass bottom boat that goes in a small circle on the surface of their biggest tank. We saw huge stingrays, sea turtles, fish, and their sand sharks! We even got a chance to feed the fish. It was a short ride but I think definitely worth the extra money to be on the other side of the glass for a bit!


After another sit on the beach, we decided to take a short drive on the beautiful Dalmaji Road. This famous road has several lookout spots with breathtaking views of the coastline. The traffic was pretty terrible but we did manage to find parking at one lookout spot to snap a few photos. From there we drove to Gwanganli, and sat on the beach just in time for the lights to turn on! My Aunt had amazing luck the whole trip, the travel gods were definitely on her side. ;) The Diamond Bridge got new LED lights this year, and the light shows at night are mesmerizing to watch. Gwanganli might be our favorite neighborhood in Busan, so I’m glad we got to show her the beach and bridge at the perfect time. Soon we realized we were starving, and we made the trek to the other side of the beach with one thing in mind–shabu shabu. I think this a must try dish for people visiting, because it’s not just a meal, it’s an experience. It was packed and we had to wait awhile but it was worth it. Aunt Kathy loved it and was a pro at using chopsticks as usual.

On our final full day together, we returned to Yangsan. I had booked us a special meal at a really fancy restaurant we had been once before on our anniversary. I wanted Aunt Kathy to try as much Korean food as possible, and this was an easy and delicious way to do it. We ate sushi, raw beef, grilled pork, and delicious side dishes. We had so much we could barely move, and just when we thought we had our last course they would bring out more food! The meal ended with an apricot tea and persimmon, and our server also brought us a gift and a message of thanks to Aunt Kathy for visiting Korea. It was very heartfelt and touching, and we were so thankful for their kindness and generosity. I know we won’t forget that for a long time to come.

We arrived at Tongdosa just before sunset, the golden hour as they call it. Tongdosa is the largest temple in Korea and our city Yangsan gets to claim it! It’s also a very important place because it houses relics of the Buddha. It’s hard to pick a favorite moment of the day, but seeing Aunt Kathy walk into the Great Hall and see everything for the first time, the golden Buddha, the beautiful murals, the reverent believers bowing..it really touched me. It was a common theme throughout the trip, but I was really inspired by my Aunt’s spirit, her positivity, her openness, and her ability to be in awe of beauty. A lot of (if not most) people her age just become intellectually lazy, un-curious if that’s a word, and unmoved by the beauty that’s in front of them. It’s even challenging for me sometimes to keep the wonder in my life, but it’s something I consciously fight for, because it’s important. We’ve seen a lot of amazing things in the world, and it’s easy to say, “oh, another temple”. Aunt Kathy inspired me to take a few steps back and realize (again) what a wonderful place we get to live in. As her luck would have it, just as we were leaving, the monks performed a ceremony I had never seen before. It was beautiful, and I recommend watching the video to see it. It was a perfect closing to our trip.

Aunt Kathy’s visit was a great success and I couldn’t have asked for a better guest. We miss you already! We hope to have more family visit in the future. Has family visited you while abroad? Tell us about it in the comments! :)

Nov 04

Amazing Sunset View in Busan – Hwangnyeong Mountain

One of the things I love about Korea, maybe my favorite thing, is that even after living here for more than 4 years, I can still find amazing places and new adventures in my own backyard. Korean people are very active, and unlike most Americans, they go out almost every weekend to explore their own country. I think this is awesome, and it makes me wish I did more exploring of my own back in the US! There’s still time for that though.

Last time I was in the US, I had to go alone. While I was gone, Evan did a lot of exploring with his new camera, looking for good places to take night pictures of Busan. After some reading online in photography groups, he drove to Hwangnyeongsan (황령산), near Geumyeonsan station in Busan. We’re not avid hikers, so it’s always nice when we find mountains we can drive up to for great views!

Waiting for sunset

Waiting for sunset


Evan sent me excited messsages while I was away, claiming that he found this place with the best night views of Busan he’s ever seen. He sent me a picture of Gwanganli’s Diamond bridge from the top of the mountain, and I was in awe. We went back together soon after I returned to Korea, and again recently with our friends Meagan and Dave from the blog Life Outside of Texas. The amazing thing about the views from Hwangnyeongsan is that because it’s in the heart of Busan, you can see almost all of the major neighborhoods from the top. On this particular trip we arrived in time to catch the sunset, and I can honestly say it was the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen!

I don’t think a lot of people know about this hidden gem, so I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Busan. There are a few places to stop on the way up, with great views of Diamond Bridge, and the summit is relatively flat with a nice park. There were quite a few couples having romantic picnics the last time we were there, and it’s the perfect spot for it! :)

I’m so glad Evan found this place and that we were able to share it with friends. Now I hope you all go check it out, and if you’re not in Korea, go explore a new area wherever you are in the world! Then leave us a comment about your adventures!

How to get there:
There are lots of ways to get to the mountain, but I would suggest catching a taxi from Geumyeonsan station Line 2. If you walk, it should take a couple hours to get to the top. There are cafes, a few restaurants, and food trucks on the way.
Get more info. and view a map on the Visit Korea site!

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